By Kelly Kazek
The small town of Ardmore has seen its share of difficulties from straddling the Tennessee state line.
Businesses on one side of Main Street pay Alabama taxes and follow Alabama laws, while a few steps away in Tennessee, different rules apply.
On the Tennessee side of the line, storeowners can legally sell alcohol and lottery tickets, but not those in Alabama.
One police department, which is physically located in Ardmore, Ala., covers the police jurisdiction area of the town in both states. Because of this, officers are required to be certified in the laws of both states.
However, there are two Ardmore mayors and town councils, one in each state.
So when David Whitt took over as Ardmore Police Chief in 2009, he faced a challenge.
“Both mayors had expressed concern about the drug problem,” Whitt said. Drug users and dealers were making the most of the differing laws and moving across state lines to avoid arrest.
But Whitt was determined not to let the criminals outsmart him. “When I first took office up here, one of our goals was to work on the drug problem,” Whitt said.
On Tuesday, following a nine-month long undercover investigation, Ardmore Police arrested 18 people on drug charges from Alabama and Tennessee. At least 15 others are expected to be arrested Wednesday.
The large-scale bust was one way to put an end to suspects’ shadowy movements. “They cross the line into another county or state,” Whitt said. “It’s a vicious circle.”
Armed with 33 warrants and assistance from sheriff’s departments in Limestone County, and Giles and Lincoln counties in Tennessee, Whitt and officers began the arrests at about 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Also assisting were authorities from Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals in Alabama and Tennessee, and the Department of Child Services.
The extra help allowed officers to corner as many of the alleged criminals as possible before word began to spread.
“After that first arrest, word’s out and they scatter,” he said.
Whitt had no problem asking for help. “We learned an important lesson when we had all those bank robberies — four in 13 months. We learned to network with other departments.”
Whitt wants criminals to know officers are watching them.
“There are still more we’re going after,” he said. “This is not going to be the end of it. We’re going to continue.”
During the roundup, authorities seized pills, cocaine and synthetic marijuana.
Here is a list of the suspects who were arrested Tuesday (charges are based on Tennessee laws, where the suspects were booked into Giles County Jail):
• Jason Phillip Gray, 19, of Hazel Green, charged with simple possession/casual exchange of a controlled substance.
• Joseph Glenn Meeks, 34, Ardmore, Ala., simple possession/casual exchange of a controlled substance and a Schedule IV drug violation (meaning there is low risk of substance abuse).
• Stanley Jamie Rowell, 20, Huntsville, Schedule I drug violation (high potential for abuse).
• Nathanael Lynn Green, 20, Ardmore, Ala., Schedule IV drug violation, Schedule I drug violation.
• Ricky Carl Glover, 33, Ardmore, Ala., two counts Schedule II drug violation (high potential for abuse; has currently accepted medical use in treatment), one count of Schedule III (low potential for abuse; currently has accepted medical use in treatment).
• Carlton Tug Howell, 22, Ardmore, Ala., three counts Schedule II violations.
• Samuel Petter Haynes, 19, Toney, simple possession/casual exchange of a controlled substance.
• Danny Ray Glover III, 25, Ardmore, Ala., Schedule II drug violation.
• Tyler Jefferson Smith, 20, Harvest, sale of a contraband controlled substance.
• Thomas Louis Fletcher, 54, Elkton, Tenn., Schedule III violation
• Melissa Ann Smith, 24, Ardmore, Tenn., one count Schedule III violation, two counts Schedule IV violations and three counts Schedule VI (use of marijuana or synthetic equivalents).
• Theron Lee Chaplin, 20, Ardmore, Tenn., Schedule IV violation.
• Belinda Faye McCluskey, 39, Taft, Tenn., three counts Schedule III, one count Schedule IV, three counts of fraud to obtain benefits or payment for medical assistance.
• Melinda Faye Fletcher, 36, Elkton, Tenn., Schedule III violation.
• Brittany Nichole McCluskey, 20, Ardmore, Tenn., four counts Schedule III, one count Schedule III in a school zone, three counts Schedule IV, one count of fraud to obtain benefit or payment for medical assistance.
• Trina Lynn Strong, 39, Ardmore, Tenn., Schedule III violation.
• Lucy Carol Crews, 46, Elkton, Tenn., fraud to obtain benefits of payments for medical assistance, Tenncare fraud, Schedule III violation, one Schedule IV violation and one schedule IV in a school zone.
• Carey Thomas Harwell, 44, Elkton, Tenn., Schedule III violation.